By Gail McCarthy
---- — A special Cape Ann Museum exhibition will pay tribute to the Cape Ann Artisans group, known for its annual studio tours, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. This museum retrospective includes work by 70 past and present members. The public is invited to a free opening reception Saturday, March 2, from 3 to 5 p.m.
In 1983, a number of local artisans joined forces. They then organized a studio tour, which became an annual event that’s continued to evolve and grow through the decades. The tour welcomes visitors into studios, large and small, to give them a personal experience with the artists themselves.
“We began the group for mutual support and promotion of our work, and over the years that support has extended throughout our personal and professional lives,” said Marty Morgan, a potter and one of the original founders. “I feel very fortunate to be doing work I love, living in a beautiful place, while being part of such a rich artistic community.”
The artisans wanted to show the public their varied creative spaces, which otherwise might go unnoticed, and also demystify the artistic process for those interested in taking a peek.
“The idea is to invite the public into our studios so they can see the work in the places where it was actually created,” said Morgan.
David Archibald, another founding member, explained that the artisans were looking for a way to better connect with the public because their studios were scattered around Cape Ann, some in urban settings and others in more remote and even waterfront settings.
“Over time, we have seen the interest grow and the number of visitors has grown. We have established ourselves as a high level group of artisans,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people keep coming. I see people who came through in the 1980s. You build relationships over the things that you make and even friendships develop.”
Morgan said she is excited that the museum exhibit includes works by 70 of the 77 past and present members.
“It’s wonderful to feel we are continuing the artistic traditions of Cape Ann. Some of us are not so young anymore, so it’s especially good to have someone in the group like Julia Garrison who is now running the Sarah Elizabeth Shop in Rockport,” said Morgan. Garrison studied with the late Isabel Natti and is now doing her own block-printing designs using the more than 150-year-old press once owned by the original Folly Cove Designers.
Many of the artisans have become good friends and a source of support. Many also take part in community events, like the Empty Bowl Project, which raises money to feed the hungry.
Two founding members who are still part of the studio tours are Anni Melancon and Sara Wright.
Museum director Ronda Faloon said the museum is thrilled to share in the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Cape Ann Artisans. This exhibition showcases a diverse selection of work, featuring painting, printing, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, mosaic, photography, fiber arts and more.
“Like the Folly Cove Designers before them, they are a group that has maintained a high standard of workmanship among its members and whose members are committed to the concept of the open studio — inviting the public to view the creative process so to better understand the final product,” said Faloon.
Curator Martha Oaks noted that the artisans allow visitors to their studios to view the “art of making art.”
This year, Cape Ann Artisans welcomes six new studios — making a total of 23 studios — featuring 26 artists in all. The first 2013 studio tour is scheduled for the weekend of June 22 and 23.
In conjunction with the special exhibition, the museum will host demonstration days throughout the spring.
On March 16, there will be an art lesson with former Cape Ann Artisan Ed Touchette, a painter. On Saturday, March 30, the following artisans will demonstrate their craft: Mike Foley, sculpture; Leslie Wind, jewelry; Beth Williams, jewelry; Pam Stratton, mosaics; and Judith Wright, mosaics.
On Saturday, April 27, the following artisans will demonstrate their craft: Julia Garrison, block printing; Marty Morgan, Anni Melancon, David Archibald, Cynthia Curtis, Erin O’Sullivan Place and Scott Place, pottery; and Mary Ann Wenniger, collagraph.
On Saturday, May 18, the following artisans will demonstrate their craft: Bart Stuyf, sculpture; Judith Goetemann, silk painting, Leslie Wind, fiber arts; Sara Wright, weaving; Jyan Gardner, jewelry; and Meredith Anderson, jewelry.
The exhibition will remain on display through May 26. Cape Ann residents receive free admission on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon for the duration of the exhibition. The museum is at 27 Pleasant St. in Gloucester, and is wheelchair accessible. For more information, visit www.capeannmuseum.org.
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or at email@example.com.